BUCKLAND ABBEY GOES GLITZ

(Review)

At first sight it shouldn’t really work, the 700-year-old Buckland Abbey, lying amongst sheep-filled fields, surrounded by a typically Devon landscape, displaying the work of Andrew Logan, flamboyant artist, sculptor and jewellery maker and founder of the Alternative Miss World contest.

But at the VIP opening of the exhibition, held at the Abbey last Thursday (June 29) it was clear that not only did the partnership work, it positively stunned .

Andrew Logan himself was ill (now recovering) and unable to attend , but his friends and relatives joined with National Trust director general Dame Helen Ghosh, other National Trust executives and trustees, and Buckland Abbey staff and volunteers for the launch party. Close friend Zandra Rhodes had passed up attendance at a prestigious opening in London to come down, and her flowing dress and bright pink hair summed up something of the show, for Andrew Logan is all about colour, joy and fun.

His work is full of symbolism and takes inspiration from many sources, mythology, other cultures and religions, and his own circle of family and friends. He works largely with recycled materials – as one of his assistants said, “he finds it very hard to pass up a jumble sale”.

When you look at his pieces there is always something unexpected to find, often tucked away, rather like the Abbey itself. The exhibition opened publicly this weekend and runs in full until October 29. Most exhibits will remain in place until February 4, 2018.

It is a major coup for Buckland Abbey to be showing it. Although the National Trust is increasingly working with contemporary artists in a range of genres it is the first time that we have the chance to see the work of an artist of Andrew Logan’s standing on our doorstep.

The pieces reflect both the peaceful and tranquil time of the first occupants , the Cistercian monks, 700 years ago, and the bling and swashbuckling of the Elizabethans. As James Breslin, manager at Buckland, puts it, the first private owners of the house, Sir Richard Grenville and his wife, were “the Posh and Becks of the Tamar Valley”. Contemporary glamour and glitter is not new to the Great Hall.

Not everyone is impressed, it is fair to say. It is all very different from the usual Abbey experience. But do give it a go!

The Goldfield Exhibit in the Great Barn is completely stunning, and don’t miss Excalibur in the carp pond. This piece comes courtesy of two Buckland staff who put it in position by wading into the pond, one wearing a wetsuit and snorkel. And it looks just like Excalibur should, shining and surrounded by dragonflies. When you go, look out for the art ambassadors – volunteers who will be wearing their bespoke Andrew Logan apple pendants with pride. As I do.

Liz Benfield

Below: the artist with his Goldfield of corn (picture thanks to Steve Haywood/National Trust)

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Editor of The Horrabridge Times.